Companies that produce premium lithium-ion batteries or use them in their products find themselves in a pickle when it comes to nickel.
Adding nickel to the cathode boosts a battery's energy density significantly when compared with lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) versions, which forgo the rare earth metal. While that means a longer range for electric vehicles fitted with li-ion batteries, it also means higher cost.
A perfect storm of forces has caused nickel prices to spike of late, with the price of the commodity up more than 50% so far this year. At the same time that demand for nickel is surging due to a rush toward electrification, supply chains are still snarled thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Russia, a top producer of nickel, is being isolated globally due to its invasion of Ukraine.
This run-up in nickel prices is forcing companies that make lithium-ion batteries, as well as EV manufacturers that use them, to make adjustments—from scrambling to secure long-term contracts to ensure supply and stabilize pricing to exploring alternatives such as LFPs.
Here's a look at what executives at top public battery and EV companies had to say about the nickel situation on their recent earnings calls.